A bogus belief that Windows Server 2003's end-of-life date will be extended beyond 14 July has created "apathy" among end users and stunted the pace of migration, according to HP's UK server boss.
Angela Cross, UK and Ireland country manager for servers, estimated that at least 30 per cent of the UK market has yet to migrate off the 12-year-old operating system as Microsoft gears up to withdraw support, despite the security risks involved.
"Customers are waiting for Microsoft to say on the 14 July, 'oh, we've changed our mind; we're going to extend it for 12 months'," Cross told CRN.
"But Microsoft has been very specific and has been putting out on Twitter for the past five or six months that the date is not moving. There is a potential challenge looming and HP is concerned that customers are leaving themselves exposed."
Cross suspected some end users have been lulled into a false sense of security by Microsoft's decision to extend PC OS end-of-life dates in the past. Meanwhile, the fact XP forced many customers to perform a PC migration last year has also created affordability issues, she added.
"We have seen some very large clients and a number of smaller clients move. But I think there is probably in excess of at least 30 per cent of the market, if not considerably higher, that have done nothing [in the UK]. And I'm being a bit conservative there," Cross said.
"And I don't think it's for any lack of communication [from us and our partners]; they've chosen not to action against it."
As of January, there were an estimated 400,000 Server 2003 boxes still out in the UK field that potentially needed upgrading. Globally, Server 2003 end of life represents a $100bn (£63.5bn) opportunity for migration-related solutions, according to research by Spiceworks.
Microsoft has warned that there are "significant security risks" to staying on Server 2003 beyond two weeks today, something Cross echoed.
"There are potentially customers that are very exposed to huge vulnerabilities," she said. "I think people are thinking, 'maybe if it's my file and print server, it's not very important' – but it's still an access route into your network, which is an access route into your business; therefore it's a vulnerability."
Cross said it was more of a challenge to convince customers to migrate off Server 2003 than XP.
"It's a different problem. When you change an OS on a PC, you probably have to change the PC and there were such huge advancements that it made a lot of sense for customers to upgrade to the latest version of Windows," she said.
"For servers, sometimes the estates are sprawling; we have small customers that have maybe 20 or 30 servers but understanding the vulnerabilities in that is challenging if you don't have a sophisticated IT capability. And that goes all the way through to the customer who's running tens of thousands of servers. Where do you start?"
Although some Server 2003 laggards will have bought custom support from Microsoft, Cross said it "probably would have been cheaper to plan a migration".
"A third [of the market] has migrated, some of the rest of them have made attempts – but how far are they through that? – and I think at least 30 per cent have done nothing, and are hoping the problem will go away," she said.
The fact that more than a third of the market has yet to move presents a "vast" consultancy opportunity for partners, Cross added.
"The hardware piece of the opportunity is actually quite small," she said.
"Windows 2003, from an HP perspective, is probably running on at least generation 5 or older, so if you had 10 gen 5 servers, you probably need one gen 9 server to deliver the same outcomes today. It isn't a hardware-heavy refresh; it's a consulting and transformation project, which is where our partners offer great outcomes to customers because they can understand the vulnerabilities, understand what needs to be done along the way, and run a full migration programme."
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